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Kevin's Corner - July, 2022

Every month, The Sunset Project board member Kevin O'Brien breaks down news articles, stories, and people that he finds interesting and relatable to The Sunset Project's mission!

This week's article, courtesy of The New York Times

A Mental Health Checklist for College Students
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Written By: Christina Caron

Publish Date: July 2022

Kevin's Thoughts:

While the great migration back to college typically doesn’t begin for another month, it is never too early to be proactive in taking care of oneself. This month’s article by Christina Caron revolves around the idea of being proactive; doing something now so that you don’t end up suffering the consequences later. Speaking for myself, I could certainly benefit from thinking this way more. Mental health among college students has been on a steady decline over the last few years. A survey during the 2020-2021 school year showed that 60% of students reported meeting the criteria for at least one mental illness. That is nearly a 50% increase from 2013.

I know this article primarily focuses on college students, but I see this as merely a jumping-off point to discuss the themes within the article. This information can be generalized to other groups of people as well, not just college students. Being proactive in many aspects of our lives nearly always pays off in a positive way. Examples range from asking questions to clear up confusion with a friend or coworker instead of sweeping it under the rug, or finishing a house project before the week is over to enjoy your time free of worry. Those are simply two examples, but you get the point.

Caron mentions reaching out to a counseling center early to build rapport with therapists, as well as secure a spot since slots fill up quickly. We visit a doctor in a heartbeat when we are sick or injured, we should do the same when we are feeling down. Don’t wait until it gets to its worst point! Be proactive. Therapy doesn’t have to last forever.

I really like Caron’s next point: embrace other types of support. As a graduate student, I am thrown all kinds of work whether that be projects, papers, internship responsibilities, and others. I feel stressed out, like a lot. But my silver lining is that I ask for help from professors, folks in my program, my supervisor, my advisor, my friends, and my family based on the circumstances. I had a professor who used a barstool as an analogy for support. Having a variety of supports (people, groups, hobbies) are the legs of the stool. The more support you have, the stronger foundation and greater chance of coping with hardships in a healthy way. That’s a strong stool that will support an individual. No one wants to sit on a barstool with one or two legs. Stepping out of the weeds and realizing that you have supports in place, whatever those may be in your life, can often be taken for granted. Here is your wake-up call: reach out to those strong supports in your life more often. They are 100 percent there for you, as you would be for them.

The final item on the checklist ties in nicely with my last writeup, and that is practicing wellness habits. Regularly taking care of yourself like eating well, getting enough sleep, socializing, exercise among others will assist in improving your mood. When the good goes in, it also comes out. Not only the general health behaviors assist in improving your mood, but also engaging in activities you love. Enter that flow state, and be on your way to facilitate greatness before the crap hits the fan.

The Take Home:

Do the heavy lifting now to set yourself up for success. Your future self will thank you later on!

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